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Formic Acid Formula – Structure, Properties, Uses, Sample Questions

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  • Last Updated : 25 Apr, 2022

Formic acid is also a carboxylic acid, was named after the Latin ‘Formica’ meaning ant. It is systematically named methanoic acid. It is used in the processing of leather and textiles. Formic acid is colorless in pure form with a pungent odor. It has high acidic properties, its salts are corrosive and skin sensitizers, it is also used as an antibacterial agent.

Formic Acid Formula

The molecular or chemical formula of Formic acid is HCOOH or HCO2H or CH2O2. It has a molecular weight of 46.03 g/mol. A Hydrogen atom bonded to a carboxylic acid. Small hydrogen atoms do not much interfere with O-C-O bond angles in the functional carboxylic acid group. The coming Hydrogen atom forms a bond with hydroxyl Oxygen H-C-O-O.

Structure of Formic Acid


Preparation of Formic Acid

Formic acid is prepared by the reaction of formamide with sulfuric acid. and it is also done by hydrolysis of methyl formate i.e., CH3HCO2.

2HCONH2 + 2H2O + H2SO4 → 2HCO2H + (NH4)2SO4


Physical Properties of Formic Acid

  1. Formic Acid has a density of 1.22 g/cm3. Its boiling point is 100.8˚C.
  2. Its melting point is 8.4°C
  3. Formic acid has a colorless liquid appearance.
  4. Its molecular weight is 46.03 g/mol.
  5. Formic acid is miscible with water.
  6. Formic acid as pungent odor.

Chemical Properties of Formic Acid

  • It reacts with phosphoric pentachloride forming phosphoryl chloride, hydrogen chloride, and formyl chloride.

HCOOH + PCl5 → HCOCl + POCl3 + HCl

  • It can form mercurous chloride from mercuric chloride forming a white precipitate.

HCOOH + 2HgCl2 → Hg2Cl2 + 2HCL + CO2

Uses of HCCOH

  1. It is used in the production of leather, textile, and rubber.
  2. It is useful as a preservative and artificial flavoring.
  3. It is a chief ingredient in fuel cells.
  4. It can act as an antimicrobial agent.
  5. It acts as a reducing agent to reduce potassium and sodium dichromate.

Safety Issues

Its salt is mildly irritating to the eyes. Taking large amounts may lead to kidney damage. Inhalation of fumes causes irritation of mucous membrane. Skin contact may lead to burns.

Sample Questions

Question 1: Does Formic acid naturally exits?


It exists naturally in various ways like a bee, ant stings venom and it is a valuable synthetic organic reagent. It is very effective at low concentrations. Since it is an antibacterial material, humans use formic acid as a food preservative, antimicrobial agent, and artificial flavoring.

Question 2: Difference between Strong acid and Weak acid?


A strong acid is an acid that dissociates entirely in an aqueous solution whereas weak acid is an acid that dissociates partially in an aqueous solution. Formic acid is a weak acid because it contains very few hydrogen ions in the aqueous solution and it dissociates partially.

Question 3: Is formic acid polar and what happens when heated?


Formic acid is a polar molecule because its charges are not evenly distributed. The end with the Hydrogen is positive and the end with the Oxygen is negative. This difference in electronegativity causes the molecule to be polar. When formic acid is heated, it decomposes to hydrogen and carbon dioxide in a first-order decay.

Question 4: What are the uses of Formic acid?


In livestock feed, mainly used as a preservative, and also since it is an antibacterial material humans use formic acid as a food preservative and artificial flavoring. It is used in the production of leather, textile, and rubber, It acts as a reducing agent to reduce potassium and sodium dichromate.

Question 5: What are the health effects of Formic acid?


Inhalation of formic acid fumes causes irritation of mucous membranes. When it comes to contact with skin can cause burns. It led to kidney damage by swallowing more amounts. Strong solutions of formic acid are corrosive and can cause burns to any part of the body it comes into contact with.

Question 6: Is formic acid an organic acid?


Organic acids like formic or acidic acids are utilized for oil and gas stimulation treatments. These organic acids are significantly less responsive to metals than solid mineral acids like HCl.

Question 7: Does formic acid evaporate?


The evaporation of formic acid with a droplet diameter of ∼1.00 mm is examined in a constant volume ignition chamber for pressures going from 5 bar to 20 bar at a wide temperature range (150–300°C). 

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